Flag-design contest flies at Dal

Posters promoting the flag design competition. (Photo: Scott Riddell)

Posters promoting the flag design competition. (Photo: Scott Riddell)

Two students at Dalhousie University have organized a contest to design a flag for the school.

Although Dalhousie has a registered crest, it has never had an official flag.

But there is a lengthy process between conceiving the flag and flying it as an official symbol of the school.

Joel Tichinoff has been mulling over the idea for a couple of years now and he finally has the support of some students and administration, as well as a means to make it happen.

Contest Rules:

1. The contest is open from Feb. 1 until midnight on March 15, 2011.

2. All students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members are eligible to enter.

3. Flag designs are to be posted to the "Dalhousie Flag Design Competition" Facebook page or emailed to [email protected]

4. Designs may be submitted in .tif, .jpg, .pdf formats.

5. There is no limit to how many designs each person can submit. You can work in teams, however designs must be submitted by an individual and prize will be awarded to the individual who presented the winning design.

6. There are no design criteria for flag submissions, however submissions deemed offensive will be removed.

7. By entering your flag design in the contest, you grant Dalhousie University the right to use your design in promotional material.

8. VOTING will take place online via Facebook, determined by the number of "Likes" a design receives. The final five designs will be submitted to selection committee.


The design competition is the first step.

Tichinoff, in his final year at Dalhousie, says the idea came from a need for school spirit, which he says is lacking at Dal. He sees a flag as something tangible, which students can identify with and take pride in outside of the classroom and off the athletic fields.

The Dalhousie Tigers have a logo, mascot and banner, but those don't represent the entire student community, says Tichinoff. That's what a flag will do.

The competition

The flag design competition is being run on Facebook. The rules are simple in that there are minimal limitations on what people can submit.

Students, faculty, alumni, and community members can post their design on the Facebook page. People can vote on their favourite flag design.

The top five choices, based on how many times visitors click the "like" button on a design, will go to a selection committee for final approval.

The selection committee includes university president Tom Traves, alumni association president Jim Wilson and Dalhousie Student Union president Chris Saulnier.

The competition began Feb. 1 and submissions can be made until March 15 at midnight. There have not yet been any submissions on the Facebook page, but Tichinoff says they are just beginning to promote the contest.

The chosen design will be announced March 22.

The idea was pitched at the first Brains for Change conference last year, an event where young people pitch ideas to improve the community and see what kind of response it gets.

The notion of a flag was well received. After a year of discussions, it gained momentum at last month's Brains for Change.

Tichinoff and Mo Kbeili, also a Dalhousie student, put the design competition together. Kbeili agrees school spirit is lacking at Dal.

He says people need to embrace the student experience at Dalhousie and that a flag would be one way to help that happen.

While the contest is open to any and all designs, offensive submissions will be removed, and as Tichinoff says, the selection committee acts as a kind of safety valve to ensure that the chosen flag is appealing and representative of the university.

Bonnie Neuman, vice-president of student services, approved the project and is pleased to say that they will have a flag, and that the competition and selection ensures that they will leave "a long-term legacy for the university."

Raising the flag

But getting a flag up a pole isn't all that easy. Before anything official is declared, there is a specific protocol to follow.

Once a flag is chosen, a petition must be sent to the Canadian Heraldic Authority. It is the branch of the Governor General's office that helps design and sanction crests and flags.

Forrest Pass, the saguenay herald of arms, who's involved with the official registration of flags, says that even if a corporate body such as a university submits a design, there are specific guidelines that have to be followed for it to be approved.

Pass says there are regulations on flag designs, ensuring they don't infringe upon the established rules of heraldry, which have existed since the Middle Ages.

Some of these rules include colours and the placement of crests and logos and avoiding similarity to other flags.

Pass says they occasionally approve designs that are submitted without negotiation, "but it is very rare."

The basic process involves a petition to the chief herald, negotiations over the design, and preparation of the grant document, called the "letters patent."

Overall costs are generally around $2,400, according to the website of the Governor General.

The site also says that from the time the petition is received it takes 12 to 14 months to complete the process, barring extended negotiations.

Merchandise and concessions

Tichinoff acknowledges the lengthy process involved in getting an official flag for the school. He concedes that it will be well after his time at Dal when, and if, an official flag is flying on campus.

But he says in the meantime, they are going to, "fake it until they make it."

Once they settle on a design, he says, the university bookstore is on board to pay for the order of merchandise, because they are the ones who are going to be selling it.

Merchandise could include the flags themselves, possibly bumper stickers, and whatever else they choose to put the design on.

The Dalhousie bookstore couldn't confirm that any official agreement was in place.

Tichinoff says he hopes to see the flag hanging from dorm-room windows, flying at sporting events, and everything in between.

The idea is that the design will catch on and become a symbol of pride for the students. Tichinoff hopes that then someone will ask why the flag isn't being flown.

"If everything goes to plan, in September, when everyone comes back here, there's the flag, on sale in the bookstore...but not on a flag pole."


Comments on this story are now closed